Tag Archives: young adult fiction

Manic Pixie Dream Girl: The broken toy in a pretty box

I recently finished reading two books, Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns. Both are written by one of my favorite people in the world, John Green. However, their subject matter is not my favorite.

In each of these books, John uses the character type generally referred to as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG). Wikipedia defines the MPDG as “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.”

The protagonists of these books, Pudge and Quentin, are both high school boys who become infatuated with their “dream girls” — Alaska for Pudge and Margo Roth Spiegelman for Q. In Looking for Alaska, Pudge starts at a new boarding school where he meets Alaska and quickly becomes bewitched by her. Q has lived next door to Margo for years, but has only admired her from afar. Both of these girls are mysterious, and although the boys realize that, neither tries to find out why that is. Both are too focused on their own desires and the fact that Alaska or Margo might be interested in them that they fail to see how broken these girls are.

When Alaska dies tragically, Pudge realizes how much he really didn’t know about her. He starts digging and finally sees what he should have seen before — that Alaska was a deeply broken girl that needed to be truly loved as a friend, not put on a pedestal that no girl, no person, deserves to be put on. When Margo disappears, Quentin decides that she’s left him this elaborate trail to follow, when the truth is that she has no desire to be found. He’s so obsessed with the idea that this girl needs him that he can’t see there’s something  legitimately wrong.

Our society as a whole has really embraced the whole MPDG idea. Women are constantly being held to standards that they could never hope to reach — be thin but not too thin, have sex but don’t be a slut, be educated but don’t be a nerd, the list goes on and on. Even though Pudge and Q see their illusions shattered at the end of their respective books, simply writing the MPDG character is perpetuating the concept. This is one of the reason’s I like The Fault in Our Star, John’s most recent book, so much more than these. Hazel and Augustus, the two main characters, know what they’re getting into. They may overlook each other’s faults, as many teenagers in love do, but Gus never holds Hazel up to his own unattainable ideas.

I personally liked Paper Towns better than Looking for Alaska, but both books seem to promote an idea that I’m completely uncomfortable with. If you want to read John Green, go for Will Grayson, Will Grayson or The Fault in Our Stars, which no one can go wrong with. These promote much more positive messages and don’t wrap a broken character with a bow of perfection.

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Holden Caulfield Thinks You’re A Phony: A John Green appreciation post

Right now I’m reading The Catcher in the Rye (yes, for the first time), and yesterday I came across this sentence: “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.” And that’s when I realized that Holden Caulfield knows what it’s like to read a John Green book.

I read my first John Green book freshman year of high school, and I’m sad to say that it did not change my life. In fact, it wasn’t even all that memorable to be honest with you. Five years later, all I remember about An Abundance of Katherines is an overweight best friend and an affinity for replacing the f-word with “fug.” Then last year, when his newest book, The Fault in Our Stars, was being released, my world was changed. This book was everywhere; I couldn’t go anywhere on the Internet without hearing about how wonderful it was or how amazing John Green is. I had seen a few of John’s videos before this, but I had not yet immersed myself into the realm of Nerdfighteria.

Realizing that I wouldn’t be able to avoid spoilers much longer, and seeing as how I was intrigued with all the excitement surrounding the book, I did what any good, broke college student would do- I found a pdf version of the book online and began reading.

I hate reading on a computer screen, but I finished that book  pdf file in less than 24 hours, half of it spent sitting out in the sun (yes I had the sunburn to prove it.) And I finally understood what all the fuss was about. TFiOS was beautiful, wonderful, amazing, everything people had said it was. But this post isn’t about The Fault in Our Stars, although it is a great book that is definitely worth your time. This post is about the mastermind behind it. A big part of the storyline of this book revolves around an author that the main character, Hazel, wants to meet. However, when she finally does meet Peter van Houten, he less than lives up to the expectations she has built up for him. I have no doubts whatsoever that meeting John Green would not only meet but exceed all of my greatest expectations. Why am I so sure?

Well here’s a good place to start: Vlogbrothers. In 2007, the Green brothers, Hank and John (pictured left) decided they would go a year without communicating by text, and video blog each other ever day for the duration of 2007. I had seen some of these videos on and off, depending on which ones peaked my interest, but recently I decided to go through and watch them from start to finish. It’s a big task to take on, considering that they still post videos daily, but when you’re watching it’s like you’re conversing with two of your best friends. You get to know their lives and their personalities, their likes and dislikes, and you come to love the Green brothers and their love for each other and their Nerdfighters (Nerdfighters is what they call their “followers.” Basically, we’re made of awesome.) John, the elder lit nerd, and Hank, the younger science/computer geek. Together they created Brotherhood 2.0 and thousands of videos for your viewing pleasure. They have also created many spin-off channels, my favorite of which is Crash Course. Here the Green brothers upload short, informative videos about everything from the Civil War to the endocrine system. Sometimes in fifteen minutes or less I can learn more about a subject than I can in a 50 minute class.

Not only is John Green active on YouTube, but also on other social medias, including Twitter and Tumblr. I think this is the way of the future. People love the feeling that they’re connected to the figures they look up to and respect. Being connected to the Green’s in the same ways that I’m connected to my own friends helps give me that feeling that Holden so eloquently describes, and I know that if I called up John Green that he would be a terrific friend of mine.
DFTBA

(P.S. So Hank doesn’t feel left out, here are the links to his Twitter and Tumblr as well.)

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The Mortal Instruments: Trying to stay pessimistic

Harry Potter. The Hunger Games. Eragon. Pride and Prejudice. Twilight. What do all of these books have in common? They’ve all been turned into movies, some with better results than others. One of the most recent young adult fantasy novels optioned for film, and one of my personal favorite book series, is Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones. In case you’re unfamiliar with this novel (if you are you should go read it, and you should become a Cassie Clare fan because she’s awesome), the series centers around a race of humans with angel blood called Shadowhunters who protect the earth from demons. There are of course a million other details and love triangles, but that is the general gist. Clare’s books have been some of my favorites for a few years, but when I heard there was a movie in the works I was a little skeptical. Who could ever be good-looking enough to play Jace, the tragic hero with a broken past and witty sarcasm? And the main character, Clary, who would be able to display not only her innocence but also her independence? I had already been through these stresses recently with the Hunger Games casting, and by allowing my expectations to never fully reach their potential I managed to thoroughly enjoy the movie, and avoided critiquing it too much for the parts that weren’t to my liking, or weren’t there at all. Such are the woes of those who fall in love with a story long before it’s condensed into 2 measly hours.

The cast is beautiful. I will say that much. Here’s a picture if you don’t believe me:
See what I mean? Beautiful. However, beautiful people don’t make a great movie, good actors do, and I have never seen any of them act. But I’ve been seeing pictures of them together on set, in character, and it’s kind of making me excited, something I’m trying to avoid at all costs. Although I realize that no movie will ever be as good as the book, period, there’s something magical about seeing a story you love so much “come to life.” I just don’t like to be disappointed. In my opinion, Mortal Instruments is a story best left to the page, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see me in line next year on August 22 for that midnight premiere.

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